In this live interview with Deutsche Welle (DW.de) on 12 February, I told host Christoph Kober, that this pipeline is clearly “geopolitical”.
Without Nord Stream 2, Putin can’t significantly escalate his war inside Ukraine; he’d risk his lucrative gas-export business with EU. That’s because, without Nord Stream 2, most of the gas Russia exports to EU countries currently has to arrive via pipelines transiting Ukraine that belong to its finance ministry (the remainder Russia pipes to EU states arrives via Belarus-Poland).
I pointed out that, by invading Ukraine in 2014, Putin created his own worries about his lucrative gas business with the EU. Unfortunately for Ukraine, Germany’s government also frets about this gas, fully 40% of all EU imports, having to pass through Ukraine. And so, Berlin made a “realpolitik” decision in 2015, to assist Russia’s Gazprom to build a huge new a detour pipeline around Ukraine. (I analyzed this policy, in 2017, as a “Neue Neue Ost Politik” and here – i.e., the New New Eastern Politics, a third historical iteration of German elites’ reorientations towards Moscow.)
Although this egregiously appeases Putin’s aggression against Ukraine; the vast majority of German political and business elite judge that the safe arrival of much-needed Russian gas into the EU far outweighs any concerns about the defense of Ukraine.
However, what is yet more egregious about this appeasement policy, is that is a purely Russian-German pipeline, one which runs directly from near St. Petersburg across the Baltic Sea, making landfall at Lublin in northern Germany. As I told DW TV, Merkel’s government is thereby also not only helping Putin avoid transiting Russian gas exports across Ukraine, it is also setting up Germany as the sub-Moscow distribution hub for Russian gas sold throughout Europe. (Indeed, in this sense, this is a “commercial project,” one which shamelessly takes over the business of a country that has been invaded, in cooperation with its invader. This is what is generally considered as “war profiteering.”)
Only 18% of the total of 110 billion cubic meters per year (bcm) of Russian gas will remain for use inside Germany; the remaining, whopping 90 bcm arriving in Germany via the combined Nord Stream 1 (completed 2012) and the currently under-construction Nord Stream 2, in total a mega-pipeline system, will simply flow on southward, across three German states, to the Czech Republic and hook into the same EU gas-distribution system that is currently fed by pipelines bringing Russian gas across Ukraine.
When and if Nord Stream 2 is completed, whatever rump-amounts of gas that might still flow from Russia across Ukraine on its way to EU customers will no longer be enough to be of strategic importance to either Russia or the EU, and, so, Mr. Putin will no longer have to fret about about any “collateral damage” that might interrupt his European gas business should he decides to escalate his aggression in Ukraine. Neither will the leadership in Berlin have to worry that Russian gas supplies destined for Germany and for Germany’s trade-partners across the EU, regardless what might transpire in Ukraine (or, for that matter, in Belarus).
This all explains the reasons for which the European Parliament (voting 581-to-50 against Nord Stream 2 on 21 January), and many Eastern and Central EU states, as well as Ukraine are so opposed to Germany’s self-described “energy partnership” with Putin. They are particularly outraged every time this appeasement and war-profiteering is referred to by German leaders as “merely a commercial project.” This is also the reason for the many US sanctions against the pipeline, imposed by overwhelmingly bipartisan votes of the US Congress, three times since 2017. We shall see, over the next few months, these many opponents will be successful or not in preventing the final completion of Nord Stream 2.